36 years back an Australian radio station played this live show from the Bombay Bicycle Club across the Antipodean airwaves. It’s hard to believe. Hard to conceive that it happened so long ago, and incomprehensible that something so raw and savage – with language not for the faint-hearted – would get played in that format.
So what is it? A curiosity or something worth listening to for its own sake? A bit of both it has to be admitted, but take some guilty pleasure in giving it an airing.
From the offset there’s a loud and up for it crowd roaring away as the band tune up. They’ve had a few to drink by the sound of it, so Rose Tattoo need to rise to the occasion if they want to get off the stage alive. So, a wave of slide guitar sounds out from the late Peter Wells and a slow 70s Stones-like lead line gets ever more intense as chord cut across the riff, then Angry Anderson shouts out and we’re neck deep ‘Out Of This Place’. Tormented dirty street lyrics put across eloquently, the title chanted over a Pretty Things/early Mott/proto punk rock beat before everything comes to crashing to the end. The band completed by guitarist Robin Riley, bass player Geordie Leach and Digger Royall on drums.
Next up is the thumping unrelenting boogie bash of ‘Bad Boy For Love’ with slide guitar busking away carefree then 3 minutes things gets more serious as the rhythm guitar hacks away loudly underneath. ‘Assault And Battery’ rides on the chord changes of the Stones ‘Respectable’ but the lyrics sure ain’t! A couple of short numbers come in the form of the heads-down bass heavy hard rocker ‘Tramps’ and ‘We Can’ Be Beaten’ that impresses less to these ears than those patriotic Aussies singing along.
Anderson delivers an earnest rant about the media in general, newspapers and TV in particular “about living” from the heart but it fails to translate. Fortunately we have the epic rock narrative of ‘Butcher And Fast Eddy’ to listen to after. A slow sleazy blues about rival gangs and jailbait lovers, it’s West Side Story biker Aussie style. ‘Rock And Roll Is King’ has more going for it than its clichéd title promise, catchy in a Generation X manner while the boisterous blue rock boogie stomp of ‘Texas’ has Anderson sounding like AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, but back when he was in Geordie with a fuller-gruffness than the hyena howl most know him for.
‘One Of The Boys’ is not much different from the Mott song of the same name, just faster while ‘Branded’ is full of gutter rock splatter; a slow build as the slide echoes like a surf instrumental with added stage banter and attitude. ‘Revenge’ has a Muddy Waters feel, with washes guitar, shimmering slide and wide and wily yet somehow emotional lyrics whereas ‘Juice On The Loose’ is a howling stomper, with bottle neck looping and twirling away.
Rose Tattoo finish with their classic ‘Rock And Roll Outlaw’ – a number that scored so well with rock audiences back in the day because it applied a more obvious big heavy metal riff that played out like a strutting Stones and Zep in a rugby scrum. They encore with ‘Scarred For Life’ where you can hear the AC/DC comparisons they used to have to fight off, save for a slow section where Anderson reminisces on love before it went wrong, and the listener finds themselves not so surprised that years later the singer would have an international solo hit with the ballad ‘Suddenly’ as featured on the Neighbours TV as Kylie Minoghue and Jason Donovan walked down the aisle. But don’t worry, rockers, it’s a brief section here. Rose Tattoo the band have no time for sentimentality; “Goodnight. Look out for each other and stay outta trouble!” shouts Anderson at the end. There’s no great climax; more you know you’ve had a great night now clear off, the staff have gotta clean up.
Rough and ready like the band, with some ace slide soloing from Wells, listen and remind yourself of a time when the world wasn’t so twee.